D-8 summit in Kuala Lumpur: Some concrete promises
THE D-8 summit, consisting of eight most populous Muslim majority nations, took place on July 8 in Kuala Lumpur. The chief adviser of the caretaker government of Bangladesh, Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, attended the summit. The participation of the chief adviser has demonstrated the importance Bangladesh gives to the D-8 summit, which is held every two years. It was the 6th Summit since 1997.
D-8 Forum: How it began
The idea of the D-8 was first discussed in October 1996 by the then Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who was eager to create a Muslim alternative to the EU and what was then the G-7. The organisation was formally established on June 15, 1997, in Istanbul.
Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nigeria and Turkey are the member states of the D-8. Incidentally, these states are also members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
The objective of D-8 is to promote economic cooperation and development, especially in agriculture, industry and trade. It aims to enhance cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, rural development, human resource development, science and technology and health to improve the economic status of member states.
D-8 is an economic alliance with the objective of improving the social and economic conditions of the Muslim-majority nations. The total population of the member countries is estimated to be 930 million, so whatever decisions D-8 member countries take are noticed by the international community.
Kuala Lumpur summit
In 2006, Indonesia held the summit and became the chairman of D-8. The President of Indonesia Yudhoyono handed over the chairmanship to Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi. The theme of the summit was: "Meeting global challenges through innovative cooperation."
The global challenges the summit discussed were the soaring price of oil, the food crisis and climate change. Furthermore, the triple threat of inflation, slowing global economy and financial sector woes needs to be addressed.
The organisation expects that working groups on energy and civil aviation will learn, observe, and study more possibilities on the use of bio-energy for civil aviation to combat the rising price of oil. The aviation world is seeing some new tests on bio-fuels being conducted by Japanese flag carrier, Japan Air Lines.
Five-point proposal of Bangladesh
The chief adviser of the Bangladesh government mooted a five-point recommendation for effective cooperation among the D-8 member states in energy, food, trade, climate change and migration. He proposed mechanisms to ensure supply of affordable energy and focus on renewable energy, such as solar, tidal, bio-fuel, wind power and hydropower.
It is noted that coal constitutes 39%, oil 10%, gas 15%, nuclear 16% and hydro 19% of the total world electricity generation. Currently, only 9% of energy in Asia is produced from renewable energy sources, and most of that is from hydro-electric power.
On the global food crisis, the chief adviser called for creation of a D-8 food fund to enhance collective food security. It is reported that since 2003 the price of rice has been on a steady climb, and has risen 141% in the last year alone. He called for establishing a D-8 free trade area alongside forging a Preferential Trade Agreement.
KL summit decisions
The D8 summit resolved to boost food production to combat shortages that it said threaten to trigger widespread political unrest. The summit had agreed to facilitate visa procedures for genuine businessmen from D8 countries. D8 has decided to implement all signed agreements focusing on trade in the next two years, including those signed by companies of D8 countries.
Strong commitment to the implementation of the first two-years of the D8 Roadmap 2008-2018 was made on some economic sectors that support the increase of intra-group trade, including services such as tourism.
The two-phased roadmap envisaged increased intra-group trade from the current 5% to between 15% and 20% of the group's total global trade by 2018. By end of 2018, intra-trade is to grow to $571.5 billion or 15% to 20% of the total D8 global trade.
The KL summit decided to have a permanent secretariat in Istanbul, which is necessary to follow up decisions and to provide new ideas of cooperation among D-8 countries.
The member states will choose a secretary general for a four-year term in alphabetical order. The current Secretary General, Dipo Alam of Indonesia, will continue for a four year term. The next secretary general will be from Iran.
The D-8 Forum consists of diverse economies, and it has been found difficult to harmonise and integrate them into one economy. The old model of national interests conflicting with the combined interests of D-8 has been a danger to cooperation among G-8 members.
For example, rules of origin are used to determine the source of goods for trading purposes. D-8 cannot implement the Preferential Trade Agreement because of the differences of views among the member-states on the content of rules of origin. Bangladesh reportedly wants local content to be 30%, while Egypt wants 50% and other countries want 40% .
On July 3, a D-8 Business Forum was held in Kuala Lumpur to discuss biotechnology, renewable energy and the development and regulation of the halal industry, which ensures that activities, particularly the production and processing of food, comply with Islamic precepts.
However, such meetings have so far failed to have a significant impact on economic relations among D-8 member states. According to the D-8 secretariat, the total trade of D-8 nations with the world reached $1 trillion last year, while among member states it was only $60 billion. This accounts for only 5% of the trade with the world.
Since 2003, the price of oil has jumped five-fold, but it did not figure prominently at the summit because Iran believed that it was a much broader issue and the D-8 Summit was not the appropriate forum to take any decision because the problem was universal and something not peculiar to D-8.
The D-8 developing countries should collectively explore one another's strengths to further enhance trade collaboration within the bloc.
The simple reality is that, for the foreseeable future, the D-8 cannot make any significant impact on economic relations among member-states because it has to grow and develop on the basis of united platform of economic and trade programs.
However, it is a political institution that is likely to grow to its full potential, once they continue to attempt to confront global challenges and work together to meet them.